VOCES8 is back with a stellar performance of Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus,” a 17th-century hymn originally written for Holy Saturday. While the esteemed sacred choir was a little late with this release, missing Holy Week by several months, there are some songs that are so beautiful that they can be enjoyed even out of season. Besides, the tune’s reference to the “living water” is perfectly suited to the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival in the United States.
“Sicut Cervus” is one of Palestrina’s most well known motets, a style of music the composer pioneered during the Renaissance and that proliferated in the Church. Palestrina was quite possibly the most prolific composer of the Renaissance era, completing more than 105 Masses and over 250 motets.
This hymn is a setting of the first three verses of Psalm 42:
For the leader. A maskil of the Korahites.
As the deer longs for streams of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God
My soul thirsts for God, the living God.
When can I enter and see the face of God?*
VOCES8 gives the nearly 500-year-old song a marvelous treatment, as always. It’s hard to overstate the exceptional talent needed to sing music of the Renaissance. Its polyphonic form means that each voice is singing its own melodic line, as opposed to a large scale chorus where many people are singing each part. Each of these individual melodies come together to form a whole, making this style of music a wonderful metaphor for all of God’s creation.
There are a ton of equally impressive sacred songs, and even some secular songs arranged for choir, on VOCES8’s YouTube page. Be sure to visit their official website to keep up with all the future releases of the world’s premier sacred choir.